At the most basic level, to be a son or a daughter is to experience what it is to be loved without merit, which is a dimension of love that “endlessly amazes us,” Pope Francis explained Feb. 11 in his most recent of a series of reflections on the family.
In describing the “depth of the human experience of being a son and daughter,” the Pontiff noted that children are “loved first,” meaning that they are “loved before they arrive.”
“And this is free, this is love,” he continued. “They are loved before birth, like the love of God who always loves us first. They are loved before doing anything to merit it, before being able to talk or think.”
“How many times do I meet mothers in the square who show their bellies and ask me for a blessing,” he asked. “These children are loved before coming into the world.”
“To be a child is the fundamental condition to know the love of God,” said Pope Francis, “who is the ultimate source of this authentic miracle. In the soul of every child, in as much as vulnerable, God puts the seal of this love, which is the basis of his personal dignity, a dignity that nothing and no one can destroy.”
Pope Francis also reflected on the fourth Commandment that asks children to honor their father and their mother: “This Commandment comes immediately after those that concern God Himself. In fact, it contains something sacred, something that is at the root of all other kinds of respect between men.”
“A society of children who do not honor their parents is a society without honor; when parents are not honored, one loves their own honor,” added.
The Holy Father called children “the joy of the family and of society,” and “a gift.”
“And I tell you,” he concluded, “how beautiful it is when I pass among you and see the moms and dads who raise up their children to be blessed. This is an almost divine gesture. Thank you for doing that!”
Beginning in December, the Pope embarked on the catechetical series during his weekly Wednesday audiences in St. Peter’s Square as a way to prepare for the synod of bishops on the vocation of the family. Previous topics include the Holy Family in Nazareth, motherhood and fatherhood.